Black Perspectives; Maintaining Our Black Heritage in Ethnically Diverse Society with Robert Hayden
Good evening welcome to black perspectives. A half hour feature focusing on black issues information and lifestyles in the communities of Boston and the salt. Sure I'm your host Charles Desmond. Tonight we're continuing our series on maintaining our black heritage in an ethnically diverse society. Our guest this evening is Robert C. Hayden. Mr. Hayden is director of Project development for the Boston Public Schools has served as director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology secondary technical education project and was also an executive director of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity in Boston. In addition to his work in administrative capacities is a well-known author and scholar in the area of black history and black concerns in the in the United States and throughout the world. Thank you very much Bob for coming over and spending some time with us today. Thank you very much Charles for the reader to be with you. In recognition of the fact that this is Black History Month we've been looking at the question of Black's contributions to American society in the formation of American values and cultures.
We thought that tonight you could assist us a little bit in gaining some more insight into the contributions of black Americans to American society and why it's important for us to be concerned about these contributions and to give notice to them during this month. Charles you mentioned this multi ethnic racial I divert society that we live in. And I think one of the reasons that we are so conscious and concerned about maintaining a multi-ethnic climate in this country and multi-ethnic issues is a direct result of the renewed awareness in black history and black studies in the 1960s that was part of the underpinning and part of the foundation of the civil rights movement. It was black history that gave those black men and women in the south particularly those who for example were part of the monkery boycott. It was history they gave them a sense of
where they were at a particular point in time. And what they had to do in 1055 adjoining Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Today we hear a lot about Irish American studies and Italian American studies and Jewish studies. I don't think we had so much discussion and concern about the multi ethnic studies and programs and talk until the black studies movement resurfaced again and then everybody began to say yes Who am I where did I come from. What is my family history. So I think that the black studies movement a black history movement as it became part of a civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s made everybody aware that yes we are in a multi-ethnic society and I think that's another contribution that black history and black historians have made because black people have to go back to our black historians. And since this is the 60th year that we have celebrated black history during the month of February. Let's go back to the eminent black historian Kata Tjuta Woodson. How did you
Woodson founded in 1926. What was then called Negro History Week. It was a five day celebration of black history. Now he didn't see his Negro History Week at that time as being a one week affair. He thought it either should be the beginning of a year long love affair with black history or it should be the culmination of study and activity that took place up until oh during the during the past year. Well here we are at nine thousand nine hundred six the entire month of February now across the nation. We bring very specific and focused attention on the lives and the work and the experience of black people in this country and a matter of fact throughout the world. The theme of black history month this year which is sponsored by the Association of Afro American Life and History in Washington which was also founded by cottage E. Woodson in 1915. The thing this year is
black history the international collective action. So we have to go I think even beyond the borders of the United States and look at the history of black people worldwide throughout the universe to understand the magnitude and the importance of Black History. Let me say that I think that that was an excellent overview of why why we celebrate during the month of February I think a lot of people probably have wondered how Black History Month came what its origins were and why and why we celebrate in February of as opposed to July or August or what have you can I say a little bit more about kata ji Woodson and his original idea back in one thousand twenty six and a kind of gee Woodson was a Ph.D. in history. From Harvard University he was a scholar. He was a historian he was a researcher he was a writer. But he was interested as a historian in bringing history to young people he was really concerned about children
and teenagers before he went often in 1015 1017 and started the struggling then struggling Association of Afro-American life in history. He was a high school teacher and he was always concerned about young people. And not only did he write scholarly materials in black history a number of books and journal logicals but he also started the Negro History bulletin which was a soft cover publication specifically aimed for people in schools children and teachers and educators and church and community agencies so he had an idea you know way back in the 20s about the need for particularly young people to black people and all people particularly black children to to know their history understand their history. So that was one of his original aims. And so that's why it's very important that. Not only during Black History Month in the schools across this country but Week by week month by month we continue to provide materials and resources and opportunities for all teachers
to integrate into the curriculum various aspects of black contributions of the black struggle I think that if you if you look at black history in this country one of the concepts that keeps coming through is the concept of struggle. And what is struggle. We have to look at the way black people have struggled on the political front the educational front the economic front over the years have been many tactics and strategies and approaches to dealing with the improvement of life black life a life of black people in this country. And one of the things we should do with the history is to look at those approaches and those tactics and those strategies and see which ones might be useful today which ones are used 50 years ago 100 years ago. That's what we should be looking at in our history programs the tactics the strategies that black people have used over time to improve life in America and bring about improved living conditions. As we I think that. Many people in
America are concerned about black people as well as non-black people about the history the history of blacks in America one degree or another. American society has been vastly and greatly influenced by the experiences of blacks in America most profoundly black people have been influenced by this and that in many instances. There isn't a clear understanding and to be happy and to be half of young black people in America today have their own history. Do you perceive that that Black History Month younger people can be drawn more into an appreciation for black history. I think that unfortunately it seems as though a lot of young people get exposure during February and then the other 11 months of the year they're not actively pursuing themselves those routes that germinated during the month of February. I think it's the responsibility of black parents
the black church black community agencies public schools any program or institution or activity that touches the lives of young black people to be constantly looking for avenues and opportunities. For four black students to understand from where we've come what the struggle has been and where we are today. I think one of the most effective ways one of the most exciting ways to get young black students looking at history understanding history is to have them begin to do their own family history. As you know Charles I do a lot of oral history. That's one way I get a lot of the information that that I have particular on Boston's black years interviewing people I'm advocating continue to advocate the use of oral history. We can train young people how to go out in interview grandparents and great grandparents and aunts and uncles just about one's family
history. And out of that context youngsters begin to get a broader picture of who they are where they've come from what the struggle has been. I'm going to be here at UMass Boston campus in April working with the writing project. In service a program for teachers and I'll be talking about how to use oral history in classrooms to improve writing skills so that the same time we're teaching our youngsters how to write and write well they can get a lot of material to write about by doing oral history interviews and they can go to their parents and grandparents go to people in their community. It is not possible for students to interview grandparents or great grandparents about family history. They can find families in the church of older people whose families they could could begin to study and look at so that's one way to get started. I just recently was in a conference in Atlanta dealing with black children in a black family. And
one of the things that came up directly ties into this discussion that we're having right now in that in the course of that discussion a number of people pointed to the fact that a lot of black adults feel hesitant to discuss black history sometimes with their children they sort of have the perception that somehow or another this is a melting pot in America because so much of the history of blacks in the United States was attributed with slavery and oppression in discrimination that parents want to somehow or another separate their children from that to make them believe. I mean I don't endorse this. I just come to the question of how do we. Addressed the fact that a lot of the substance of studying black history United States is is is a negative factor in how do we translate to younger children today the positive aspects and the positive dimensions of studying their history and I mean I sort of know the answer in a sense that you have to go
proud Lavery you know certainly when you look at the Annals of slavery it was not a pleasant story. It was a very brutal story. When we look at black parents today and their parents. Let's go back if you go back to the early part of the century and look at the public educational system. This country did not want to see black people do not want to. See black people move ahead. One way to keep people from moving ahead is to keep their history from them so that any history that was taught in the public schools or that was published through whatever publications or wherever radio programs for we had television people just didn't talk about that brutal past black or white they wanted to try to forget it. One of the reasons that Carter Woodson started the association of Afro-American history one of the reasons you studied Negro History Week that I referred to earlier was because the writings the scientific work the
contributions of black inventors in the 19th and 20th century have been denigrated have been downplayed because if people knew the truth about the black experience and what blacks had accomplished through the struggle. It would have been a different story. But people did not want the truth to come out so many people a little hesitant to talk about black history to the children of the graduate because they don't know that history themselves they don't know the history themselves as I think all of us have to immerse ourselves in one way or another into the opportunities to begin to to gain back what we didn't learn as children or as adults. And as I said before one way to do that is to take a look at one's family history. I'm finding myself that even my own family history. My parents and even my grandmother who's now deceased. But in her late 80s and early 90s I really didn't want to talk too much about the past. It was something that happened a long time ago it was never discussed when they were growing up but I'm finding that if you keep
if you're persistent and the more we get black history out they will find the older people do want to talk about it and we find it's helpful to them it's psychologically helpful for them to share past memories so I think if you're persistent you'll find a lot of rich information in the. The minds of our parents and our grandparents. There are many family photographs you know back 30 40 50 years ago. Black families took a lot of pictures old family pictures can be very useful and in the end getting parents and grandparents to talk about the past and I suggest that you get some of those old family pictures for those of you who are wondering how to start your family history. Drag out the old pictures and begin to look at them and ask your relatives about the people whose whose lives were captured through photography and that's a way of getting people to open up. Let me just interrupt you right here to say that we're going to pause briefly for this public service announcement. You're listening to black perspectives on WSB FM ninety one point
nine. Please stay tuned and we will return in just a moment. Send us the state Office of Minority Business assistance was established to promote business opportunities for minority and women owned enterprises. Working with government agencies at all levels something can help your firm receive aid from a percentage of state agency awards and also increase your access to public markets. For more information visit the summer office located at 100 Cambridge Street Boston or cost 7 2 7 8 6 9 2 8 7 2 7 8 6 9 2. We're back from a brief intermission on ninety one point nine You're listening to black perspectives and I'm your host Charles Desmond. My guest tonight is Robert C. Hayden and director of Project development for the Boston public schools and we're discussing the importance of maintaining our black
heritage in an ethnically diverse society. Before i break we were talking about some of the impediments that have existed in our society in the behalf of whites as well as blacks in studying black history. But it's clear that when we look at blacks in America today that they have overcome many many obstacles to be full participants in fully involved in the affairs in the concerns of the United States and in the affairs of the world. So it seems to me that there's great lessons to be learned from studying the history in the whole question about individual will and in the desire of of people to fully participate and to fully be involved and to contribute at the limits of their own creativity and knowledge. Do you see how great a benefits can be derived to American society by in fact making a conscious effort to bring black history more into the mainstream of contemporary history historical studies the United States today.
Yes Giles history should be a tool. It should be something that we use to strategize with to think about ideologies to think about approaches to ongoing obstacles that the black people are facing in this country if we understand the positions that were taken by William Beebe Dubois for example in the early 1900s and his contribution to the development of the P and the various actions and deeds that many members of the END UP played over the years. We find that. We have many legal achievements we we've won everything in the court and it's been a 86 year Court struggle to get proper legislation and legal requirements to provide access to higher education access to jobs and access to housing.
Now the fact that we have these these legal paved roads doesn't mean that everything is going to be open and free and easy to get because there are still going to be other kinds of inequalities. Some left over from the early years of discrimination they still have to be overcome to provide full access. But. I think that many times in the coming generation. And I used to be this way too and I guess you were too. Felt that some of the kinds of progress and some of the things that black people should have and want to envision as a group had to happen overnight had to happen tomorrow had to happen next year. And if you look at history you find that it takes a long long time to win some of these victories. You know you think about the 1954 Supreme Court decision probably the most important court decision in this century for black people outlawing segregated public schools in this country. You know if you go back to 1938 and you find a
Thurgood Marshall. First then only. Black lawyer in the Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall was beginning to plan the court case back in the 1930s it didn't come to fruition until 1954 long time. But all through the 40s the black black lawyers were working in meeting. OK. If you take a look at the court a lot of that we had here in Boston for example in 1974 through Judge guarantee to desegregate the Boston schools that actions to actually started back in Roxbury back in the early 60s when people like Ruth Batson Alan Jackson Paul pox came together and began to make demands on the school committee back in the 60s. So this struggle didn't start just in the 70s around the Boston schools. It started 10 users in the early 60s and it took all of that time 10 years plus in order to finally get some kind of a court order a federal court or in this case to bring about a change in the Boston Public Schools so one of the things that that history will help us to do will give us
a sense that it's a long struggle it's going to take time and it's preparing and working over problems and trying different strategies. And it just things just don't happen overnight. It's clear that as you're expressing your right now which I think is very. A very personalized in a very helpful way of looking at history and I think that a lot of people would be encouraged to go out and to learn a little bit more about their own histories and the histories of other people as well. They're clearly beneficial aspects too for blacks to study history and to understand what their roots are in this country and what they have come to in this country and where they're heading. But there are secondary benefits that accrue to other people other people other than blacks in understanding black history and their contributions. Can you speak a little bit about how this contribution of blacks in America has an image in America as a whole. Well because the historians of the 17th 18th 19th 20th century.
Sociologist social scientists did not believe that black people had a history that Africa had a history. There were many myths truce and misunderstandings about black perspectives about black aspirations about black contributions and of those missed truths and those misunderstandings. Simply lead to too poor race relations and misunderstandings between groups. So hopefully as we rethink our history and look at that black history and begin to see that that is part of the total fabric that all people in this country regardless of race the group will see that history is quite different than what they've been taught of what they've been led to believe. And I think it's going to take a few more years for that total picture to be written. It's not going to be written rewritten unless we continue and I say we I'm talking about black educators black scholars black historians continue to support each
other in the area of black history. I black historians today are young black students in undergraduate graduate school they're interested in social sciences need support so that we have the research that needs to be done the writing it needs to be done. We've just barely scratched the surface. And let's we're going to support our young black people at UMass and at Brandeis and universe Chicago interested in history so that we have black historians out there. We're not going to keep up this momentum. That's very very important. I think that's a very excellent point in that which means that you have to nurture the process of doing history it's not in getting what history as an independent subject matter in and of itself. There aren't enough of us like myself looking at black history in this so much to be done. That was I'm going to get what we want to get done in a lifetime in terms of producing doing the research and doing the kind of writing and the preservation of various aspects of black history needs to be done as you know Charles I've done a lot of work on the contributions of black Americans in science technology and
medicine. Now science and technology in medicine is extremely important to black America today because of the fact that technology particularly computer technology for example as you well know is already creating. Some separation inequalities and access to the workplace for example the whole world of work is being changed as you know by computer technology and. If black people don't get the training and don't get the access to hardware and software they're not going to be prepared for the world of work has been drastically changed now. I want to tie that back to. The history of black people in science and technology in medicine. I've looked at people in the 19th or early 20th century and their contributions to American science and technology but in the last 20 to 30 years there have been many black men and women have made major contributions to American Science and Technology. Young people need to know about these people need to see these role models somebody's got to do that research. I
haven't had the time to keep up with some of our young people who are making breakthroughs. One that I like to cite all the time and I'm sure you remember seeing on the television screen as I did those first pictures of the moon surface. I remember the first pictures very service how many people know that the camera the ultraviolet camera that took those first moon pictures were invented by a black physicist. A young black physicist by name a Dr. George Carruthers he was 32 years old when he invented that camera. I'm not exaggerating his contribution he singlehandedly put this camera together. Dr. George Carruthers was responsible for the instrument that took those first moon pictures. How many young black people know that. I don't believe that many black people know that and I don't think many Americans know that. And it's clear that again that this is how history becomes homogenized in the sense that you lose so much in not studying and not having people such as yourself who are out looking and gathering information
and getting this information together in such a way that we can educate all Americans as to how in a multi-ethnic and multi-racial and diverse society how all of us join together to make contributions to make this country what it is today. Let me ask you we're sort of getting towards the end of the show but I could not close the program dealing with the contributions of blacks and multi. Ethnic society without talking about Martin Luther King's holiday this year. This is the first time in history the United States where a black American has been designated for a national holiday to be named after him. Do you perceive this as having showing something significant in the change in the American temperament with regards to race relations in America do you see. Do you see a great historical significance in the fact that this is happening in our lifetime. The designation of Dr. King's I just yes I do child and I was also I guess quite struck as I'm sure you probably were with the
what I thought was a tremendous quality and sensitivity to all the activities that took place across this country on this first national holiday for a black American. A great deal of planning and thought and effort even here in the city of Boston. The city itself had a four or five day celebration of Dr. King's life and his contribution. And we did the same in the Boston public schools again this year despite the fact that certainly two or three years ago President Reagan I don't think was was all that cool. I was I should say he was cool not want twins making this a national holiday for Dr. King. But the first prevailed and I think that we're moving I think towards a day when when the struggles of our forefathers our parents our grandparents our great grandparents those ancestors who who fought through
slavery and made it through the Civil War all of that is going to come together hopefully in a new America in a different America. So we're moving in that direction. And certainly the commencing of this national holiday for Martin Luther King is going to be a step in that direction. Let me ask you I know I do concur with you on that I think that I have to say that Dr. King's message of love for me was no was it was so profoundly felt in the in the celebrations that were taking place across the country and I think that all Americans really did unite and have and have united around the message to Dr. King. So ably put forward in Massachusetts we will be celebrating the 350 year of the black presence in Massachusetts in 1908. What do you see on the horizon for our dedication. Well one of the most exciting things that's going to happen Charles in 1988
and perhaps will happen maybe a year before that. But the African meeting house the first black church built in Boston by free blacks on Beacon Hill in 18 06 is going to be open renovated as the center of the Museum of Afro-American history in Boston. We haven't had that building ready for a number of years through financial problems and so on. But one of most exciting things that after American history which was started back here in Boston in 1964 by the late Dana Howard Thurman the great black theologian at BYU and his wife. That's one of the major things that's going to happen in the museum I think it is programs that are going to come before and during that year to summer break the black presence in Boston is going to give us a renewed sense of community and that's what history is all about I think we should use history for community development and to help us continue to think about each other in that community and working together and I think our history can bring us together and give us a stronger community.
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- Marking Black History Month, host Charles Desmond talks with Robert C. Hayden, a scholar of black history and the director of project development at Boston Public Schools. Hayden discusses the life of Carter G. Woodson, founder of Negro History Week, the precursor to Black History Month; the responsibility of parents, schools, churches, and other organizations to educate youth about black history year-round; impediments to teaching/studying black history, the need for more black history scholarship, particularly to document black people's contributions in science and technology; the impact of the newly-instituted Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday, and the Museum of Afro-American History in Boston.
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Guest: Hayden, Robert C.
Host: Desmond, Charles
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- APA: Black Perspectives; Maintaining Our Black Heritage in Ethnically Diverse Society with Robert Hayden. Boston, MA: WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-345-13905rqs